Hundreds of schools to shut as toxic smog cloaks Bangkok

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The horserace track of The Royal Bangkok Sports Club (C) is seen from the King Power Mahanakhon skyscraper, Bangkok's highest observation deck, during a polluted day in the city on January 28, 2019. (AFP)
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A couple wear face masks in central Bangkok on January 25, 2019, as the capital suffers from air pollution for more than a week. (AFP)
Updated 30 January 2019
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Hundreds of schools to shut as toxic smog cloaks Bangkok

  • Authorities have seeded clouds to provoke rain, sprayed overpasses with water to catch micro-pollutants and even asked people not to burn incense sticks
  • Fleets of drones are set to be deployed to disperse sugary liquid solution to help clear the air of microscopic particles

BANGKOK: Toxic smog forced Bangkok authorities to issue an unprecedented order to shut nearly 450 schools on Wednesday, as authorities struggle to manage a pollution crisis that has stirred widespread concern.
The Thai capital has been shrouded in murky haze for weeks, forcing residents to don masks and sparking social media criticism of the uneven response by the government.
Reasons given for the lingering pall include exhaust from traffic, unfettered construction, the burning of crop stubble, and pollution from factories getting trapped in the city.
Authorities have seeded clouds to provoke rain, sprayed overpasses with water to catch micro-pollutants and even asked people not to burn incense sticks and paper during Chinese New Year celebrations.
The measures so far have provoked derision from many Bangkok residents, while stocks of pollution masks have run out in many shops.
But on Wednesday, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration stepped up its health warnings, ordering all 437 city-controlled public schools to close from lunchtime through Friday, while designating 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles) of the city a “control area.”
“The situation will be bad until February 3 to 4, so I decided to close schools,” said Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang, adding he hoped the move would also empty the road of cars on the school run.
Three to four of the city’s districts are “severely hit with smog,” he added.
Fleets of drones are set to be deployed to disperse sugary liquid solution to help clear the air of microscopic particles.
It is not clear how effective that will be given the scale of the smog cloaking the city.
Aswin also said City Hall may soon issue a warning against exercising in parks.
Air Visual, an independent online air quality index (AQI) monitor, on Thursday pegged Bangkok at the “unhealthy” level of 171, up from 156 mid-month.
The measurements are higher than some cities in China but well below the Indian capital New Delhi.
Greenpeace Thailand country director Tara Buakamsri said the levels in Bangkok were the worst in “at least a year.”


Philippines’ Duterte loses patience, orders trash shipped back Canada

Updated 21 min 35 sec ago
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Philippines’ Duterte loses patience, orders trash shipped back Canada

  • Canada says the waste, exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, was a commercial transaction not backed by the Canadian government
  • Canada has since offered to take the rubbish back

MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his government to hire a private shipping company to send 69 containers of garbage back to Canada and leave them within its territorial waters if it refuses to accept the trash, his spokesman said on Wednesday.
“The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by other foreign nation,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told a media briefing.
Canada says the waste, exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, was a commercial transaction not backed by the Canadian government.
Canada has since offered to take the rubbish back and the two countries are in the process of arranging the transfer.
But Canada missed a May 15 deadline set by Manila to take back the shipment, prompting the Philippines to withdraw top diplomats from Canada last week.
“Obviously, Canada is not taking this issue nor our country seriously. The Filipino people are gravely insulted about Canada treating this country as a dump site,” Panelo said.
The Canadian embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Philippines has made several diplomatic protests to Canada since a 2016 court ruling that the garbage be returned.
The consignments were labelled as containing plastics to be recycled in the Philippines but were filled with a variety of rubbish including diapers, newspapers and water bottles.
The issue is not the only one to strain ties between the two countries.
Last year, Duterte ordered the military to cancel a $233 million deal to buy 16 helicopters from Canada, after Ottawa expressed concern they could be used to fight rebels.